SINGAPORE- Rat sightings in housing estates here have taken a sharp dive, according to latest official data.
On average, some 4,100 rat burrows were found in Housing Board estates up till November this year, compared to 7,300 in 2011 when the National Environment Agency (NEA) first started a national programme to track rat sightings over six two-month cycles each year.
The dip has led the agency to turn its attention beyond the heartland.
Last month, it called a public tender for pest control companies to "locate and destroy" rats in 12 areas. These included Orchard Road, Geylang, Little India, Joo Chiat and Holland Village.
The agency said that it picked these areas because "the high density of food retail establishments and human traffic render them prone to rodent infestation".
Besides targeting these 12 areas, the NEA also wants to start a one-year study on rat behaviour in commercial buildings where there are food courts and supermarkets.
An NEA spokesman told The Straits Times that the "improper storage and disposal of food" is a major cause of rat infestation, and it wants to reduce the problem by emphasising "good housekeeping and refuse management".
In July this year, the NEA awarded a $4.2 million contract to curb the rat population in public areas for up to two years.
Although rat sightings in public housing estates have fallen, some town councils are not letting their guard down, according to The Straits Times' check with all 16 town councils.
The Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council hired pest control company Rentokil in October for a two-year $600,000 "rat attack" programme.
The Moulmein-Kallang Town Council also has its own pest control contractor.
It received 50 complaints annually for last and this year, down about 70 per cent from 2010 and 2011, said its public relations manager Janet Chua.
But the Sembawang Town Council said that it "does not keep specific records on rat-related complaints", while several others such as the Holland-Bukit Timah, Nee Soon and East Coast town councils did not reply to queries.
Pest control companies said that the efforts by NEA and town councils show that they are serious about cutting down the rat menace.
But the authorities should not "just throw money at the problem", said Mr Carl Bapista, director of Origins Exterminators.
He suggested that some practices should also be changed, such as picking up rubbish at night instead of the morning.
"This gives rats a shorter window to go through the trash bins," he added.
While supporting the NEA and town councils' moves, some residents in private landed homes said that HDB dwellers get more help than they do.
Mr B.T. Lim, a retiree in his 70s who lives in a terraced house off MacPherson Road, said: "The back lanes of the shophouses are full of rats at night. They do not come under the town council but I hope the authorities can do something about it."
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